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Further Up, Further In (Part 4)

Further Up and Further In  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This sermon considers our eternal destiny as worshippers of the victorious Lamb and concludes with the recognition that present worship "in the Spirit" participates in the heavenly eschatological reality described in Revelation 4, 21, and 22. The people are challenged to engage in worship so that "heaven may come to earth."

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Introduction

“Further up and further in” comes from C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle. It is about the end of all things **transitions to**
The fascinating book of Revelation:
I have been fascinated and intrigued my whole life, even being scared as a child.
The Greek word for Revelation is apokalupsis, which is where we get our word, “apocalypse” - a word with many negative connotations in our society today. For example, “The Zombie Apocalypse.”
Yet the word simply means “unveiling.”
Revelation unveils for us the reality that is going on “behind the scenes.”
The book consists of a series of supernatural visions seen by a Christian leader named. The visions are sometimes difficult to interpret. Their overall message, however, is that there is more going on that meets the eye, and God is brining things to His good intended end.
Written to 7 churches in Asia Minor, in what is now called Turkey, experiencing trials. For example:
Ephesus: “endured hardship”
Smyrna: “Endurance of afflictions and poverty”
Pergamum: “Where the throne of Satan is”
Thyatira: “perseverance”
Sardis: only a “few” who have not soiled their clothes
Philadelphia: “little strength”
Laodicea: “lukewarm”
The challenges of the hearers are re-framed in the climactic struggle of good versus evil.
It gives us the spiritual explanation of the experiences we encounter upon the earth.
The epic battle:
The powers of heaven versus the powers of earth and hell.
One of the strange things about the book of Revelation is the monsters that occupy the visual horizon. [Describe these monsters.] Yet we should not be surprised to find monsters. We face them constantly:
Ecological disasters are monsters.
The fact that in we have entered an era in human history in which we can literally wipe out most of the population of the earth in a single day through nuclear weapons is a monster.
That we live in a day with more slaves than at any other time in human history is a monster.
The corrosion that turns family relationships into arenas of warfare and abuse is a monster.
Addiction in all its varied kinds is a monster.
The pressure that pushes us to achieve and acquire more status and possessions at the expense of our homes and our souls is a monster.
Yet the monsters are not unopposed. Revelation tells us that the monsters act as part of a war against the Lamb
Note how in our way of viewing things, “the Lamb” can be disappointing when we want something strong to go against the monsters that we face.
Revelation shows us Godzilla rising from the sea to demand the allegiance of the earth, and heaven’s champion is announced:
“The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” We turn to see
A Lamb.
Yet the Lamb is a central figure in the book. The Lamb, of course, is Jesus. This is the shocking way in which God will get His work done.
We are called to worship this Lamb.
A book about Worship.
Revelation is a book about WORSHIP.
In today’s message we will learn about why we worship the Lamb and what happens when we worship the Lamb.

Why We Worship the Lamb

In Revelation chapter 4, John his caught up into a spiritual experience in which he receives a supernatural vision of the throne room of heaven. Now, this is not to indicate that there is some geographical location in outer space that we call heaven. Heaven is not somewhere out there. We refer to it as “up” because that is a good biblical way for us to understand how Heaven is above the experiences and powers of the earth. When John sees Heaven’s throne, it is full of fantastical images and activity. What has happened is that God has made visible to John spiritual realities that to us are invisible without supernatural sight. John’s vision of the throne room in heaven early on emphasizes the activity of worship. The selected texts illustrate this.

2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,

Lord God Almighty,

Who was and is and is to come!”

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

11 “You are worthy, O Lord,

To receive glory and honor and power;

For You created all things,

And by Your will they exist and were created.”

This text gives you a picture of the constant atmosphere of worship that takes place in heaven. The Lord is worshipped and very soon we will be introduced to the Lamb and the Lamb will also be worshipped.
The biblical texts tell us that we worship the Lamb “because He is worthy.” What does that mean? Why is He worthy?

1. We worship the Lamb because He is in control.

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.

4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.

4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain

To receive power and riches and wisdom,

And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power

Be to Him who sits on the throne,

And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

a. The Lamb is enthroned.

Verse 6: “in the midst of the throne”
There is no sense of disorder or chaos in heaven.

b. The Lamb opens God’s plans and promises.

THE SCROLL:
In the ancient world, important official documents such as royal edicts, court verdicts, or land deeds were sealed in order to demonstrate validity. Often, the witnesses present to the written act would each be represented by separate seals. More important documents were sealed with more seals, and only authorized recipients could open them in order to execute what was written inside.
To understand John’s book, we need to recall that the imagery builds upon the experiences of the people as well as previous visions and imagery from the Old Testament.
In the ancient world, important official documents such as royal edicts, court verdicts, or land deeds were sealed in order to demonstrate validity. Often, the witnesses present to the written act would each be represented by separate seals. More important documents were sealed with more seals, and only authorized recipients could open them in order to execute what was written inside.
This vision has repeated images of fullness and completion. First, the scroll is written upon the front and back sides. Typically, ancient documents contained writing only on a single side. Thus, the fullness of what is written is emphasized by the double-sided document. Seven (i.e, the seals) is a repeated number in Scripture and often represents completion (e.g., the seven days of the week of creation).
This is not the first time we have seen the imagery of scrolls used to represent God’s will in the Scriptures, nor is it the first time that there is trouble with the scroll being opened or understood. God told the prophet Isaiah that judgment would come upon those who rebelled against Him. Nevertheless, the vision was sealed within a scroll that none had the authority to open or the ability to read (). The day was coming, the Lord declared, when the blind would read the scroll and the deaf hear its words. This would bring redemption and restoration to the people of God (). Ezekiel also was given a vision of a sealed scroll. In his inaugural vision which has some similarities to John’s vision, the prophet is called and commissioned ( through 3:14). He is shown a scroll written on both sides full of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (). Although the scroll shown to Ezekiel is unrolled, he is assured that the people will not receive the words. Finally, the prophet Daniel is also given a revelation about God’s ultimate acts of redemption but is commanded to seal up the book until the end ().
The point of this Old Testament review is that the royal verdict, the divine plan for creation, was sealed in heaven. What was written within contained the hopes of all who longed for redemption and suffered under oppression. To this point, no one has been worthy to break the seals and read the royal decree. Thus John wept, for the hopes of the ages piled up since Adam’s sin remain unanswered. However, as we shall see, something happens to make this vision different from the others.
THE OPENING:
John’s weeping is interrupted as one of the elders approaches him with good news: One was finally found worthy to take the scroll and open the seals. The elder describes him as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (). These descriptors have a long history in the Bible. Lying on his death bed, Jacob prophesied over his son, Judah, calling him a lion and declaring that a ruler would come from this tribe to receive “the obedience of the nations” ( NIV). Isaiah also foresaw that the “Root of Jesse” (Jesse was King David’s father) would “stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious” ( NIV). The time for the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies has come: the Lion of Judah will receive the royal scroll and claim the allegiance of the nations.
The elder tells John that the Lion of Judah is able to open the books because he “has prevailed” (). Though we would have good reason to think that Jesus has the right to the book simply by right of His divinity, the Scripture indicates that He nevertheless went through battle in order to receive and execute His Father’s plans. The battle He fought was faced upon the cross against the dark and deadly forces that destroy the world. He won that battle rising from the grave. He is tried and true, a victorious Warrior.
At this moment, the living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall before the Lamb and worship. They make music and burn their bowls of incense which are the prayers of the saints. All the ancient cries of God’s people are answered in this moment when the Lamb receives the scroll. The long usurping rule of evil is broken by the Lamb’s victory. Redemption has come. Thus, the petitions of God’s people rise before Him and are transformed into sweet odors of worship. No wonder John is told to weep no longer!
We worship the Lamb because He is victorious.

2. We worship the Lamb because He is victorious.

In another vision, we see the triumph of the Lamb over the monsters we talked about earlier.

11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

Jesus’ return is a clear contrast to His first advent. Now He comes arrayed as a warrior king. Readers familiar with the Old Testament will recall that God is described as a warrior who goes to battle for His people (e.g., ). The blood-stained robe is also an Old Testament allusion to his prowess as a warrior (see ; ). Some have wondered whether the blood is an allusion to His own sacrifice or the blood of His enemies. The Isaiah reference makes us think the latter, while other descriptions of the Lamb make us think of the former. Perhaps the description is intentionally ambiguous as to allow both interpretations. He has suffered but ultimately triumphs over the enemy.
John says He comes to make true and righteous judgments, unlike the corrupt judgments of the rulers of the earth. Before the penetrating vision of His fiery eyes, all things are laid bare. Thus, the verdicts of the Word of God are always right (cf. ; ).
John’s readers would have been noticed deliberate contrasts. The monsters of Revelation wear multiple crowns ( and 13:1). Caesar also claimed the title of “king of kings and lord of lords” and rode a white horse in battles and parades. John wants them to know that the Roman Emperor and the monsters to come are only parodies of the real king, Jesus.
The royal title of the Lamb helps us understand verse 15. Jesus arrives to take His rightful authority over all the nations. John uses the same phrases we find in which expresses the promise of the righteous Messiah who shall strike down the powers of evil. He also alludes once again to when he tells us that the Lamb will tread the winepress of God’s wrath. Sometimes popular descriptions of God give us an indulgent or impassive deity who is never stirred to anger. That is not the biblical depiction of God. There are some things that provoke Him to wrath. Clearly the injustice, violence, and oppression enacted by all the monsters of history have done so. When the Lamb comes, he releases God’s wrath upon those evil powers. They will be shattered, and He shall rule over them with absolute authority.
Finally, note the weapon of the Lamb. A sharp sword proceeds from His mouth (see also ). With this sword He fights His battle. This depiction fits with His name as “Word of God.” His judgments penetrate all veils to reveal the truth and administer justice.

19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.

3. We worship the Lamb because He makes all things new.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

When We Worship the Lamb

1. We worship “in the Spirit.”

1. We worship “in the Spirit.”

23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God.

The New King James Version. (1982). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. (1982). (Jn 4:23–24). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
When we are in the Spirit, we supernaturally...
a. Transcend time:
John saw what was, what is, and what is to come.
b. Transcend space
John saw things in the heavens and in the earth.
c. Transcend metaphysical categories
The spiritual and the material realms overlapped and interacted.

2. We enter heaven and heaven enters earth. The “new heavens and new earth” break in on our present situation.

2. We enter heaven and heaven enters earth. The “new heavens and new earth” break in on our present situation.

a. Prayers are answered.

3 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

b. The Spirit is unleashed with His gifts.
c. The world is transformed.

3. When we go “further up and further in” through worship, heaven comes “further down and further out” into the earth!

When we go “further up and further in” through worship, heaven comes “further down and further out” into the earth!

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